Need to know how to stay focused at work?
It’s another day at the office and you have so much to do.
But you can’t seem to block out all the things around you and remain focused.
You’re certainly not alone in this fight. The daily distractions in our lives limit our focus and severely reduce productivity.
They affect all of us at some point and impact how much we accomplish every day. Everyone deals with these distractions differently, and they often keep us from accomplishing our goals and dreams.
Whether you work in an office setting or at home, you still face many of the same daily distractions that limit us from being our most productive selves and getting more accomplished every day.
So, let’s look at some of these distractions and learn how to fix them now.
What Are Some Common Distractions that Affect Our Daily Lives?
The worst thing about distractions is that many times we don’t even realize that they’re there. So, we often don’t see how they have a HUGE impact on how well we focus. To learn how to avoid distractions and stay focused, you first need to identify the distractions that reduce your productivity.
Let’s look at some of the most common distractions that rob us of our focus.
Avoiding Distraction #1. Emails
Who would think that such a powerful tool that connects us to the world could be such a bad distraction?
If you’re like me and receive hundreds of emails every day, then you’ve experienced the giant time, suck that your email inbox can be. Are you someone who constantly refreshes your inbox?
Every time I’d hear the ding of a message popping into my inbox, I’d drop what I was doing and immediately check my email. That’s because in today’s world we expect instantaneous replies to the emails we send.
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What I didn’t understand was that checking my email multiple times a day was throwing me into reactive mode. I would finish up a long workday only to feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything. It felt like I was always trying to catch up.
But seriously, how many messages are urgent or life-threatening?
How to Tame Your Email Inbox
Learn to check your email only once or twice a day. If your livelihood is connected to your inbox like mine is as a freelance writer, check your email once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Turn off the notifications on your phone like those pop-ups that let you know you have new mail and the push notifications. And if you set an audible alert on your smartphone, TURN IT OFF!
Unsubscribe from the newsletters and sales notification that you don’t use enough and continue to purge as many of them as possible. How many emails do you actually read? If you’re constantly saving them to read “later,” you probably don’t need them.
Also, create filters and rules for your inbox that help you weed out the unimportant things and put eyes on those that are most important. You can also use a service such as SaneBox that separates your email into different folders. Over time you identify what goes in the SaneBox file, your inbox, and SaneLater.
Honestly, I think SaneBox saves me at least 4 hours a week.
Avoiding Distraction #2: Social Media
Social media distracts most of us, and it’s sneaky too! You’re working on a blog post, and you’re under a time crunch when next thing you know, your phone dings. It’s Facebook, and you look over to see that a friend created an event for an upcoming holiday.
You click on the invite to say you’re going, and you notice an old friend is invited as well. And before long, you’ve surfed through several Facebook pages and ended up on the timeline. You’ve wasted half an hour, and you didn’t even notice.
Now don’t get me wrong, social media isn’t bad, but there is a place for it. Also, it keeps you away from productive work and the tasks you need to get done.
You may check out Pinterest to do some research for SEO and see that your favorite blogger has a new blog post that you NEED to read. Next thing you know, you’re finding recipes for supper, and you’ve taken a trip down that rabbit hole.
Social media notifications are relentless, and we need to control it and use this networking tool to our advantage.
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How to Use Social Media for Business and Fun
Dealing with social media distraction when you use it for work makes it even more challenging to control. If you use ads, you’ll still see your personal notifications, and if you’re in Facebook share groups, it’s hard not to respond to every like or comment.
There are several ways you can combat the flood of messages. First, try not to choose social media platforms because your friends use them. Be selective about the social media channels you use and make sure that they’re helping you reach your goals.
What ultimate goal is social media helping you achieve? Define that goal and how social media will help you reach it and then plan your use of the platforms from that definition. Limit your use of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels to a set amount of time and specific time of day. Shut off notifications for the rest of the day
Avoiding Distraction #3: “Water Cooler” Talk
Many of us choose an office work environment such as a coworking space because being a solopreneur can be lonely, but how do you avoid distractions and stay focused when office chit chat hinders your productivity. There’s constant background noise, meetings that accomplish little, and non-stop phone calls, as well as the constant draw to chat with co-workers.
A study by the University of California-Irvine showed that breaks were beneficial to productivity, but distractions were a problem. It takes approximately 23 minutes after a distraction for the average person to return their focus to the original task they were working on.
Even worse, Russ Poldrack, a scientist at Stanford, discovered that learning new information while you’re multitasking or distracted may cause the information to travel to the wrong part of the brain. It may go to the striatum, which is an area of the brain specializing in storing new skills and procedures, not the right place for facts and ideas.
Other normal work occurrences like the ringing phone or notifications can also be very distracting. These distractions can throw you off track, and you waste too much time returning to focus, which chips away at our productivity for the day.
How to Focus When People Keep Interrupting You
So, what can you do to reduce these distractions and regain focus without telling your co-workers to bug off? Let people know your priorities and politely explain to them that you’re busy. Tell them you’ll get back to them later if someone interrupts something very important.
Also, use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out unwanted noise. It shows others that you’re busy trying to finish your work. Say no to unnecessary meetings if you can.
Avoiding Distraction #4: The Internet
Here’s another extremely helpful resource that can cause major distractions, completely taking away your focus. If you work from home, your business relies on your productivity and ability to focus. Besides social media and email, there’s Skype, iMessage, Instant Messenger, and other ways to communicate as well as the distractions of unnecessary internet research.
People waste vast amounts of time just browsing the internet. You may start by checking out the news, but the next thing you know, you’re ordering your groceries or clothes online.
Yes, the internet is essential for people who work in offices and from home. However, the digital nomad usually uses the internet for just about everything in their business, such as communicating with remote staff, working on websites, and much more.
How to Stay Focused When You Need the Internet
While I worked on this article, I had the internet open for research purposes, and there were plenty of distractions trying to derail me from finishing. When your work requires the internet, try disconnecting for a couple of hours every day.
There’s plenty of work you can do offline to take a break from internet distractions. Work on administrative duties that don’t require the internet.
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When you take a break, use that time to check on social media, your email, or message your friend on Skype. Many companies don’t allow their employees to surf the internet when they’re at work unless specific tasks require it. People who control their internet usage are usually way ahead of other professionals.
How Can I Focus Without Getting Distracted?
I learned how to avoid distractions and stay focused by using several strategies. First, I learned when I was distracted at work that I needed to remove the external distractions that we talked about above, like email, notifications, my smartphone, etc.
If the kids are home over the holidays and you work from home, adjust your work schedule around your children. Get up earlier and work while they’re still sleeping or work after they’ve gone to bed at night.
Make your day less chaotic by choosing just 2 or 3 crucial tasks to focus on. A list of 15 tasks every day can be overwhelming. Just choose the tasks that get you closer to your goals. Get those tasks done as early as possible. As soon as you sit down at your desk, work on those things.
#1. Keep Your Goals in Mind
Keep your goals and vision in mind as you work. Do you want to work from home or perhaps start a blog? Think about that goal because sometimes just knowing that we need to stay focused to reach it keeps us focused.
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#2. Skip the Difficult Things You Don’t Know
Another strategy to remain focused is to skip the things you don’t know. If you run into a problem when working on a project, come back to that part later. You can retain focus longer by working on everything that flows smoothly, then come back and work on the difficult parts.
You’ll find that either it will come to you because you’ve built up momentum or it comes more easily when you come back with a fresh pair of eyes.
#3. Use Focus Exercises
The Pomodoro technique is popular with many entrepreneurs. Start by picking a task and setting a timer for 25 minutes. Work only on that task and immerse yourself in it. Once the timer goes off, stop working and take a 5-minute break.
Meditation is essentially focusing in practice. With meditation, you’re simply sitting not focused on anything. It builds your overall focus and provides stress relief allowing you to control your emotions better.
How Do You Reduce Distractions and Improve Productivity?
So, how do you avoid distractions and stay focused while boosting productivity? Well, there are several ways, actually.
First, turn the notifications off on all your electronics, including your laptop or desktop computer. The dings of notifications tempt us to check our email and social media, significantly decreasing our focus and productivity.
Try installing an app or software that blocks you from using the internet, such as Freedom or StayFocused. The software usually lets you set a specific time limit for browsing certain internet sites. Then it blocks you from accessing the sites that you preset in the app or software.
If you’ve spent your allotted time on Facebook and then try to bring it up during the workday, these internet blockers prevent you from accessing it.
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Phone distractions are also a problem for both those who work from home or in an office building. Minimize the distraction of incoming phone calls by preprogramming text replies to send to family and friends when they call during the workday. Try explaining to your family and friends that you’re only available for calls during lunch and in the evening.
If you work in an office with many co-workers, there are many distractions. Wear noise-canceling headphones like mentioned above or find a quiet office to work in.
No matter where you work, make sure you take a few breaks every day. It relieves stress and lets you head back to the task at hand a little fresher than before.
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Ready to stay focused all day long? Get your FREE Printable Daily and Weekly Planners that make it easy to plan your daily schedule. Don’t forget to add in breaks.
Learning how to avoid distractions and stay focused can seem difficult since a relentless flood of data constantly bombards us. Technology today is addictive and has trained us to expect answers to our requests immediately and we feel the need to respond to others instantly.
You need to break those habits and try some of these techniques to keep your focus and reduce distractions throughout the workday. By practicing these strategies and avoiding bad habits such as procrastination, you’ll be much more productive during your day.
How do you avoid distractions at work?
More About Guest Contributor
Heather Ritchie is the Founder of Writer’s Life for You, a blog that helps women who want to leave their 9-5 to work from home as freelance writers. When she’s not writing blog articles for businesses, she’s helping women achieve a better work-life balance and makes the process of becoming a writer easier. Heather has a course and several eBooks in the works and can’t wait to help you write your way to the life you’ve always dreamed of.